November 24, 2009

Another Turkey in Ohio

The state of Ohio has attained considerable notoriety for its workers comp program. Unfortunately, the fame derives from a scandal, dubbed Coingate, in which high level officials were implicated in the diversion and theft of comp funds. There are a number of political operatives spending this Thanksgiving in jail. Now we read of a state senator who has proposed legislation to explicitly exclude undocumented workers from the Ohio comp system. It appears that one bad turn in Ohio deserves another.

We all recognize the ambiguous state of undocumented workers in the American workforce. But virtually all states - with the exception of sparsely populated Wyoming - have provided comp coverage to illegal workers once they are injured. It's a matter of common sense and fundamental decency: we may question how these workers came here, but once hired and in the workforce, they must be afforded the same protections given to other workers. Otherwise, we create a second-class workforce subject to exploitation and substandard working conditions - not exactly the American way.

Turkey of a Bill
Enter one Bill Seitz, a state senator who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Cincinnati and from the University of Cincinnati School of Law, where he was Law Review and Order of the Coif. I have no idea what "Order of the Coif" is, but you can see Bill having a reasonably good hair day here.

Seitz says he was shocked to learn that the Ohio Bureau of Workers Comp does not require injured workers to document their status before receiving benefits. (Why is he shocked? No state has any such requirement.)

According the AP:

Seitz's bill would place the burden of proof on the injured worker to demonstrate he or she is a legal worker by showing documentation such as a birth certificate or a visa. It would establish immunity from civil lawsuits for businesses in cases in which their workers' claims are denied by the bureau because the worker is illegal, except in cases in which the business knew the worker was illegal or if it intentionally hurt the worker.

I particulary like the immunity from civil suits. This bill would not just eliminate the "exclusive remedy" of comp - it would strip away any remedy for injured, undocumented workers. It's an invitation to employers to actively recruit illegal workers: they won't be held responsible for hiring them, they won't have any responsibility for workplace injuries that occur and they can avoid other forms of liability, provided, of course, that they did not "intentionally hurt" the worker. Seitz has stacked the deck against an already vulnerable population.

David Leopold, a Cleveland attorney and president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, thinks Seitz is engaged in a publicity stunt. "It seems to me to be a waste of time to even be talking about this. Beyond being cruel, it's senseless because it's not going to address the problem. If he has no statistics to back this up, he hasn't shown a problem exists."

As all of us gather for this most generous of our holidays, let's give thanks for our many blessings. Let's say a prayer for all of the families - native born, immigrant, legal and undocumented - struggling to make ends meet in this most difficult of times. And let's hope that the good people of Ohio focus on fixing the real problems in their comp system, not the imaginary ones that trouble the waking hours of the well-dressed, well-coifed Mr. Seitz.



I can see requiring the WC system to provide emergency medical and indemnity benefits. However, illegals are not supposed to be here, and their ongoing care should be a responsibility of their governments, not ours or our employers. I realize this is not how things are done in today's WC system, which is just another aspect of the "mission creep" that infects so many social programs in this country. Our government is out of money, and our employers are already over-burdened with taxes and insurance payments.

Thank you for calling a spade a spade. This bill should be buried.

Not that you don't have a point about this making incentive for employers to recruit illegal workers, but what about the old concept of, "so I've broken into and am living illegally in someone's home, and I hurt myself; so the homeowner has to pay for my injury?" It makes no sense. I note that you use the term 'undocumented immigrants'. They are ILLEGAL immigrants. Regardless of the complexities involved, the simple fact is that they are illegal immigrants. Of course they should not be afforded the same rights, priveleges and protections. It is not inhumane to think this way - the original concept of a melting pot and equal opportunity in the United States got us all here and it is a valiant and honorable notion; however, those days are over. If you haven't noticed, we are full. If we continue to neglect a hard stance on these issues we will destroy everything we've struggled to build. Someone has to lose. Should it be your family or theirs?

Yes, holding back WC for ILLEGALs is cruel for those willing to spend someone else's money. Sensible? Yes!
It will not create a second class worker because they already are by those who knowingly or tacitedly employing them.
Get with the program, breaking the law by being here hurts the whole society. Research Cesar Chavez, the great labor leader(left wing/socialist). He spoke and wrote about how illegal immigrants hurt the average worker. That is the pot calling the kettle black.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, perhaps we should remember that the first ILLEGAL immigrants to America were the Puritan Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 and who, along with the Puritans who followed them, over the course of the next 56 years wiped out nearly every Indian Tribe in New England, and they did it with extreme cruelty.


just so we can all be better informed, googled from the UC Law website?:
Order of the Coif
Order of the Coif is a national law school honor society. To be eligible for election by the Faculty, a student's academic average for all six semesters must rank in the first tenth of the graduating class.

This is a hot discussion topic on the WORKERS COMPENSATION FORUM message board today.

Thank you Tom Lynch. History has a way of being rewritten by the conqueror.

I respectfully point out that the majority of "illegal" immigrants are actually descendants of the original inhabitants of the Americas.

Kevin Gregerson's analogy ("so I've broken into and am living illegally in someone's home, and I hurt myself; so the homeowner has to pay for my injury?") is not even close to the point, like many analogies. The illegal immigrant didn't break into his employer's workplace, he was invited in, to do the employer's bidding there. If he gets hurt while doing the employer's bidding, the employer owes him WC benefits, as he should. It's the employer, and not "the country" or "native-born workers" or anyone else who owes him the benefits. The employer has (one hopes) bought insurance to cover his liability under the WC law. WC is not a charity that we citizens all contribute to. Better that the hurt worker's hospital bills get paid by his employer (through the employer's insurance program) than not at all - in which case the hospital has to raise everybody else's charges to cover the costs.


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This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on November 24, 2009 2:08 PM.

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